Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jay Triano Is Hired : Raptors Basketball....It's Lacklusterrific!

An Image That Will Be All too Familiar Next Season. Jay Triano calling a timeout with the Raptors way behind.

The Toronto Raptors mailed in the entire 2008/2009 season. It was so bad that Canada Post should have replaced BMO as the chief sponsor. Their performance through the entire season defined the very essence of the word lackluster. After the firing Sam Mitchell in December, Jay Triano became the interim Postmaster General and managed to change nothing and guided the team to a 25-40 record. On May 11 the Raptors removed the interim label from Triano and he was officially named head coach.

Bryan Colangelo has managed to parlay nepotism and high collared Italian shirts into a reputation as a basketball savant. His team in Phoenix was built on trading Stephon Marbury to the Knicks and signing Steve Nash. Winning a trade with the Knicks has the same degree of difficulty as beating Miss California in a game of pictionary. Heck the Italian Army has a better success rate.

Colangelo has had some success and made some blunders. His biggest error was keeping Sam Mitchell. Instead of letting him go after 2 poor seasons, Colangelo decided to let Mitchell have one more year. The one year left on the contract which they would have had to pay if they let him go. Rather then pay 2 coaches, Mitchell was kept. While they are both well dressed dandies, they had fundamental differences with basketball philosophy. While Colangelo wanted to bring a European game to Toronto, Mitchell was born in the dirty south and best known as a player for being Kevin Garnett’s caddy in Minnesota. Somehow he blundered his way to Coach of the Year in 2007 and Colangelo was left with no choice but to keep Sam.

A year and a half later, Mitchell was finally gone from the bench but still on the payroll. Jay Triano, who had been an assistant with the team since 2002, wasn’t the best choice but he was already here and came cheap. Generally the Canadian University players and coaches are not the place people look for NBA coaching talent. He was the obvious choice when the Vancouver Grizzlies were looking for a colour commentator and Director of Community Relations. He was already in Vancouver and he came cheap. When the Grizz went south, Triano, then National Team head coach was picked up by the Raptors mostly as a Marketing tool.

Look Jay seems like a nice guy and has been a solid promoter of basketball in Canada. What irks is that if it wasn’t for the huge coach of the year contract still on the Raptors books another coach would have been hired. A 25-40 record and a seventh place finish in the Olympics doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Neither does the fact that Triano was a popular pick amongst the players. The very same players who barely showed up this year until late in the season where they ruined the teams draft position by playing for their contracts.

One Man's Fight to Warm the World

I would think it's safe to say that we're all eagerly awaiting the warm months of the summer to finally arrive. After all, we had a miserably cold winter. Some of us of course are more eager than others.

Take this man for example. He's really eager. It was probably 12 degrees outside when this picture was taken. The cold weather didn't stop him from sporting a short sleave shirt while doing the double duty of warming the earth while mowing the lawn.

There is a saying that goes, "If you want to change the world you start with your own backyard". In this case it's the front yard that is the starting point.

Is the Cellphone the new Boom Box?

A couple of days ago I was taking the subway to an interview. While waiting for the train I could hear the faint sound of music coming from somewhere. I turned to my left to look at the busker only to realize that it wasn't him. He was playing the guitar and singing to some shitty folk song. Out of the corner of my right eye I noticed a small group of people bobbing their heads so I turned around to get a better look.

It turns out that one guy was holding a cellphone at shoulder level while two other friends were huddled beside him to hear the song. Now I don't know how many people who read the blog grew up in the late 70's and early eighties like myself, but from what I remember from my youth, this wasn't how this kind of thing was supposed to go down. If you wanted to listen to music out loud and annoy the people around you, you came correct. You would have the biggest, baddest boombox resting on your shoulder blasting Fight the Power by Public Enemy. Playing Right 'Round by Flo Rida on your cellphone doesn't quite have the same effect.

It's bad enough that people on the street are blasting tunes in their headphones so loud that you can hear it while standing 10 feet away. Now we have to contend with this?

So what's next? My money is on people beating off to porn videos shown on tiny cellphone projectors while on public transit.

Monday, May 4, 2009

White People Don't Like Chicken

In our ongoing fried chicken coverage we bring you a story from Rochester, NY. An advertised special at "Popeye's" closed down outlets when they ran out of chicken. It also opened up an opportunity for the television station to focus on a story important to the black community.

In the blog about the story, WHAM 13 anchor and African American Norma Holland notes "Criticism is often leveled at 13WHAM that we do not feature Black people or other people of color in our stories unless they are criminals. As a person of color myself, I am sensitive to this." . So it would make perfect sense to feature and reinforce steroetypes in a story to force the news to become more inclusive. The story would have been more powerful if it had interviews with Popeyes management and spokepeople for the black community like Amos, Andy and Stepin Fetchit. It also proves once and for all without a shadow of a doubt that white people do not like chicken. There was not one white person available in line and dissappointed that Popeyes had run out of chicken.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Dears Live In Toronto : Like Poutine Without The Gravy

Billy Bob Thornton was run out of Canada for being a jackass on CBC Radios Q. Angered at the interviewer for no sensible reason he said that Canadian audiences were like “mashed potatoes without the gravy”. The audience at his show in Toronto that night responded with boos and he cancelled the rest of the Canadian run of his tour. At the Dears concert on April 30 at the Mod Club in Toronto I realized he may be a heatbag but he is probably right.

At their Mod Club show, Lightburn, well known for his spasticity, was fairly subdued. Some of the blame may be due to a stolen bus. As they prepared to depart Montreal to begin their tour they discovered that their tour bus had disappeared. While the thieves took a bus on a joyride around the streets of Montreal the Dears had to rent a van. With their equipment untouched they took the 6 hour drive to Toronto and the show started on time.

The show began with recorded music and I was startled by a bump. I turned around to start a fight and saw Lightburn singing and moving through the crowd. He was barely noticed until he reached the front of the hall. As threw his mic in the air all that could be heard was silence. A good clue to a bad crowd is when no one sings along to the complicated lyrics “ooooooooooh ahhhhhhhhh oooooooooooh”.

With at times three guitarists and two keyboards, the band had a lush, overlapping sound. The only issue was the occasional thump emanating from the Latin club located below the Mod Club. The band whipped through a 90 minute set covering their later career including highlights “Lost in the Plot” and “Hate Then Love”. Even as the first show of a tour with a new (old) guitarist and a recent lineup change recent band they sounded tight and prepared. The same could not be said for the crowd who responded pavlonian style when they heard the word “Toronto”.

With the end of a two song encore I left the Mod Club wanting to revisit some of their songs. As I came out not hating them, I would consider the show a success.

The Dears, for those who don’t know or have never heard of Wikipedia, are a Canadian Indie Rock Band. They are led by the husband and wife team of Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak. Lightburn, the lead singer is a black guy with a Jewish name who sounds like Morrissey. Alongside the Arctic Fire, they were one of the leaders of the Montreal music scene which emerged in the early part of the decade.

Their world view can be best described by their optimistic album titles like “No Cities Left”, “Gang of Losers” and “Orchestral Pop Noir Romantique”. As a black guy from Montreal who sounds like Morrissey, I’m pretty sure Murray had a hard time fitting in. They can be described the depressed love child of The Smiths & Radiohead who can still rock.and Since their debut release “End Of a Hollywood Bedtime Story” in 2000, they have always seemed on the cusp of world domination, but have settled well into indie rock success considering the lack of support from the major Canadian media.